If you’ve been doing your research into the Philippines, then you will sure have come across Cebu as one of the must visit destinations. Of course you have, that’s why you’re here, right?
Well, did you know Cebu not only consists of one large island but also 167 other islands? Cebu city is the oldest city in the Philippines and the first capital. This sets it apart from many of the other islands as not only does it have the lure of paradise beaches, it is one of the most developed provinces and boasts the second largest metropolitan area. This mix of sun, sand and city is what makes it such a hub for many a nomad and vacationer alike. With so much to see and do, we don’t want you missing out! So let’s dive into our recommended Cebu travel itinerary to make sure you make the most out of your trip.
Both the airport and ferry terminal are found in Cebu City. So unless you’ve floated your way in on a bamboo raft, that’s where our journey begins.
With just 2 days you’ll want to keep your travel times down to a minimum. This means finding accommodation within the city or on the small island of Mactan and towards Lapu-Lapu city, conveniently where the airport is. This is where you’ll find the beach, and this is a Philippines travel itinerary after all, so this is the first thing you should be doing!
Pro-tip: if you are traveling on a budget, find cheaper accommodation away from the beachfront, take a cheap tuk-tuk ride and buy a beer at a fancy resort for pool and facility access.
One day can easily be filled living your best beach life.
Following that, you will have time to tick off some more ‘must dos’ of the city. Get your haggle skills on at Colon Street. This is Cebu’s oldest street and is full of small businesses and vendors. This would be the ideal spot for picking up some trinkets and souvenirs.
For those looking to get their blood pumping, the Sky Experience is the first of its kind in the Philippines. This 126m sky walk will have you testing your nerves as you dangle from the 37th floor of Cebu City’s Crown Regency Hotel. If that’s not enough, there’s even a rollercoaster and a zip line between buildings.
To end your day on a slightly more chilled vibe, head up to Tops Lookout to take in a phenomenal city view during sunset or to take in the night time skyline.
Some other cool spots around the city to check out include the Cebu Heritage Monument, Basilica del Santo Nino – the oldest catholic church in the Philippines and the Taoist Temple. The Taoist Temple was a personal highlight for me due to the vivid colors and stunning hillside design. Be sure to follow correct cultural practices when visiting, such as removing shoes and dressing respectfully.
With 3 days in Cebu, it is well worth looking into the many island hopping options that are on offer. I would recommend finding one that includes the San Vincente Marine Sanctuary. This sanctuary is very close to Mactan and therefore you are spending less time traveling and more time enjoying.
The marine sanctuary has been put in place by the local government to protect and promote marine diversity from such things as over harvesting. Marine life is a huge source of income for local people and the longevity of this resource is vital for the future of the local people.
One of the many projects carried out here is the planting of mangroves. Mangroves are a key part in a healthy marine environment as somewhere for fish to lay eggs, a producer of oxygen and protecting the land from wave erosion.
It’s also an amazing spot for snorkeling, checking out corals and walking their 500m bamboo bridge.
No list of ‘what to do in Cebu’ would be complete without a mention of Kawasan Falls. This waterfall is renowned in all of the Philippines due to its mesmerizing turquoise waters under the 40m high main falls.
Getting there is fairly simple if you’ve a rented vehicle or scooter, as the trail is well signposted. If you are traveling by bus, you can leave from the South Bus Terminal every 30mins. The bus stop is right outside the entrance path to the falls. It’s around 3-4hours bus ride away, with Moalboal being the nearest town. If you aren’t a fan of a big bus day then overnighting there would be a good idea, but we’ll get to that on Day 5.
The path up to the falls takes about 15minutes, with a restaurant at the end. Even using the tables costs money, so be happy to pay if that’s what you plan on doing. There are also lockers and lifejackets available for rent.
The falls will get busier throughout the day, so the earlier you arrive and go for a swim the better!
A path and staircase to the left leads up to the second and third set of falls. These are slightly quieter and more secluded than the main swimming area at the bottom.
There is also an option of canyoneering at the falls. This is a guided jungle trek taking you from the top down, with plenty of spots to cliff jump. These tours take about 2-3 hours. They can be arranged upon arrival or pre-booked. Pre-booking could good option if you don’t mind paying more for the inclusion of transport etc.
With an extra day added to your itinerary, I’d suggest breaking up your visit to Kawasan Falls with a stay in Moalboal. This quaint town has one of the coolest natural phenomena for you to experience – the sardine bait ball!
Millions and millions of sardines move seemingly as one gigantic ball as a defense against predators. The fish themselves are totally harmless and will swarm and swim around you. The sheer number is absolutely ridiculous and has to be seen to be believed.
The best thing about the experience is it is absolutely free. They hang out around an area not far from the beach. All you need is snorkel gear. There will likely be other swimmers in the water to give you a clue of direction, but how hard can it be to find a million sardines?
There are snorkel tours that include this location plus a few others, with chances of seeing dolphins and turtles. These animals are of course wild, so set your expectations realistically and enjoy what ever you happen to come across.
With one week in Cebu, you will be able to hit up all the best spots on offer as well we going slightly further afield. Bohol is just a 2hr ferry ride away; and home to some really incredible experiences. Here you can find the tarsier, the worlds smallest primate. These little guys are about the size of a fist yet their eyes seem to make up for most of that. The Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary is the best place for it, as their sole mission is to save this at risk species.
Bohol’s Chocolate Hills are also are sight worth seeing. The hills have been rounded from wind and water erosion, making them look like chocolate drops spread out amongst the landscape. Particularly so in dry season when the grass takes a brownish hue.
These activities can be combined into a single tour via various providers in Cebu. Alternatively you could spend the night in Bohol. This would allow some more time to experience the unique culture and environment on offer.
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